Nigel is not your typical overdrive, and its full name (Nigel Studio Touch Overdrive) nails it on the head. This pedal is incredibly touch-sensitive and a little drive goes a long way in bringing life to a tone. Nigel was the first Lounsberry pedal, the first of which was a hand-wired Fish Paper circuit board contained in an Altoids box for Greg Lounsberry’s private use. Greg and Nigel’s regular visits to a local music store gained a lot of attention and eventual private builds for those in awe of Nigel’s response and sound. Nigel is different as his wiring is different, developed by a guy with a background in robotics and military space technology. The result is a multi-stage FET preamp with Germanium diodes and cascading gain staging that produces a warm response ideal for semi-clean, heavy crunch and smooth creamy leads. Nigel’s all analog circuit has Plexi-like dynamics that obviously works well for guitar, but also melds well with keyboards due to its full-range response. Nigel comes with a 9VDC battery or you can use a 9VDC standard power supply (negative tip).
Nigel is a very unique sounding drive pedal on its own, but what I did notice is how it makes other drives sound better and more responsive – thus making it an ideal stacking pedal if you’re into that sort of thing. In general, Nigel reacts similarly to an amplifier when it comes to playing dynamics, rather than a pedal that merely drives an amp. Besides the dynamics, Nigel cleans up very well when backing off on a guitar’s volume – it remains very responsive and full sounding, even with the volume approaching a mere 50%. I further found Nigel sounds best (for rhythm) with a guitar’s volume around the 80% level, producing an excellent Rock crunch tone with well defined notes. Once the guitar’s volume approaches 100%, the tone becomes far more saturated and fat, similar to heavy full-on fuzz. Unless wanting that result, I prefer the guitar’s volume dialed back for rhythm (80%), but upping the volume (100%) for lead and to exploit that thick sustained creaminess. As for Nigel’s Drive setting, I prefer it between 12-noon to 2-o’clock – but, again, with the guitar’s volume dialed back for rhythm, then increased for lead. In effect, when working Nigel in this manner, you can go from rhythm to a slightly boosted lead tone at a touch of a guitar’s volume control.
Nigel works well with either clean or dirty amp channels, even those on the high-gain side of the fence. It does so by producing that amp-breaking-up quality and a resultant broader dimension in note definition. In sum, the sound simply sounds fuller and more expansive. This is different from how many overdrives affect an amp, e.g., increasing the dirt and grain by pushing the amp harder. Nigel does this, but it also increases sensitivity in amp response so that playing dynamics jump out better and with a texture that wasn’t there before.
So far I’ve made Nigel sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread, and it is an excellent pedal. Certainly everyone has his or her predilection and flavor when it comes to drive pedals, and the same is true of how Nigel sounds and operates – not everyone will think the same I do. Insofar as tone is concerned, Nigel is super-easy to use since it has only two knobs – one for Volume and one for Drive. However, Nigel does add warmth to the signal, which may require a tweak of your guitar or amp’s EQ to adjust bass-mid-treble preferences, since Nigel does not have a Tone control. Next, Nigel has a lot of headroom, and so adjusting the Drive will require an adjustment of the Level, unless wanting a boost. Fortunately, the controls seems to mirror one another – when placing the Drive at 12-noon, the Level likely will be at 12-noon, or if the Drive is at 10-o’clock the Level would be at 2-o’clock. Your gear may dictate otherwise, but I tried Nigel with various amps and preamps, and this relationship held pretty steady throughout. Also, a little Nigel goes a long ways, which is particular true of dirty amp channels. When pushing other drives or dirty amps I turn up Nigel’s Drive just a touch and to the lowest possible “I can hear it” level, and found that amount more than sufficient. Even with clean amps I never found a need to push Nigel’s Drive past 2-o’clock.